Travelling with diabetes requires quite some extra effort.
And planning. And “in case of” and “in case shit happens” preparation.
Especially if you’re planning to travel far, across the oceans and time zones.
Travelling with diabetes isn’t impossible by any means. I’d say it’s actually the opposite. You just have to know and prepare properly for it.
As I’m leaving on a longer-than-usual trip soon, and as it is my first trip that far with the pump (I really don’t travel enough, clearly!), I went to see my lovely diabetes nurse for some tips and tricks and general good advice.
It turns out A LOT has happened in terms of handling diabetes on the long-go, at least if you’re wearing a pump.
Last time I crossed continents, I was still on Lantus and had very little idea of how to handle it all, with the time zones, different rhythms and change in exercise level. Let’s just say I didn’t handle it optimally well. Partially because I didn’t know how to, partially because I frankly didn’t care about it then as much as I do today.
As a result, my blood sugar levels were all over the place, I was exhausted, not only because of the time zone change, but also because of the rapid blood sugar changes. Add on to that arriving in a bustling city where I had never been before (NYC that time) and wanting to explore it ALL in the few days we had there…
Let’s just say that that equation didn’t really add up to work in my favor.
Which is why, this time around, I’m taking much more thorough precautions before setting off.
Hence, I scheduled an appointment with my diabetes nurse.
First of all, I wish everyone had the opportunity to work with a diabetes nurse as awesome as mine is. She has a safely secured spot in my Dream Health Care Team, that’s for sure.
Secondly, she had a really nifty trick up her sleeve for me to use while in transit.
She suggested that I’d set up another basal program on my insulin pump, with a constant basal rate for the first (few) days. Basically as long as it takes me to get over the biggest jetlag factor.
I have pretty low basal rates throughout a 24 hour time period, between 0.4-0.55 units per hour, giving me a total of 11,3 units per 24 hours. Her suggestion was to set up a basal profile with a constant 0.45 units per hour for the first 24 hours, to give my body a chance to acclimatise quicker, and then turn on my normal basal profile (and change the time on my pump) when I either realize weird spikes in blood sugar, or I feel like I’ve caught the worst of the jet lag wave. (Lowering my basal while travelling seems to generally be a fantastic idea…)
This was completely new to me. And, granted, I haven’t tried it out yet, so I can’t tell you how well it works (or not). But it seems a lot easier than the old ways of changing basal injection times and dosages along as your jet lag diminishes…
Perhaps is travelling with diabetes just that much easier with an insulin pump?
This wasn’t of course the only advice she had for me. Along with the “usual” tips of bringing (much) more supplies than you need, a doctors note for security checks, an extra blood sugar meter & test strips for it, staying hydrated, getting sleep during night time, paying close attention to blood sugar, bring a glucagon kit and snacks, snacks, snacks, she also showed me the “device” (aka chart on a piece of paper) that she uses to calculate a possible return to Lantus dose.
This is excellent information to have if I ever want to go on a pump-cation (a break from my insulin pump), or, if by any chance against all odds, my whole pump system breaks and I need to take Lantus until a replacement arrives. Because I take on average a total of 18 units of insulin per day, the chart showed that my Lantus dose should be around 20 units per 24 hours. I have no idea about the conversion calculation that is used here, so if you do, please leave a comment below!
I feel really relieved and happy that I’m doing all this preparation work for my trip. Now it’s just to keep fingers crossed that the actual trip itself goes as smoothly as the preparations have done so far.
How do you travel with diabetes? What tricks and tips do you use? Please share them in the comment below!
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